Every May, with Make a Will Month just around the corner, we tell you why we think you should make a Will. This year, we decided to ask an expert, so got in touch with a solicitor whose firm are taking part in our annual campaign, to find out a little more about the process and why a Will isn’t something you should put off.
Sarah Bowes is an Associate Solicitor and specialist Trust and Estates Practitioner (TEP) at Samuel Phillips Law. Samuel Phillips are offering their services to St Oswald’s Make a Will Month for the second year, although Sarah has been involved for several years at different firms she’s worked for. We asked her a few questions that we find our supporters ask us, when we tell them about Make a Will Month.
Why should I make a Will?
One of the most important reasons is peace of mind. I find that it’s a huge weight off a client’s mind to create their Will, as it’s something they often put off for years and worry about unnecessarily. When people put it to the back of their mind, it’s still there, niggling away. By making an appointment with a solicitor to get their affairs in order, people seem to relax and can concentrate on other more interesting things!
Another reason is to protect your loved ones and make things as straightforward as possible, should something happen to you. Losing a loved one is a very upsetting time, but one of the last and most important things you can do for your family and friends is to ensure that your final wishes are clear and that they can avoid any necessary red tape and stress at a difficult time.
Why do so many people not have a Will?
The proportion of UK adults that don’t have a Will is currently at an all-time high, with well over half saying that they do not have a Will in place. This amounts to more than 31 million people who are risking everything they own by letting the law decide who should inherit everything from them when they die.
Dying without a valid Will in place is called dying ‘intestate’. When this happens, strict inheritance laws come into play to establish who is entitled to inherit what.
When I chat to people, the main reasons I hear for people not having a Will is that preparing for death is uncomfortable or depressing. Try not to look at it like that! Treat it like an important piece of life admin that once it’s done, can be forgotten about. People also tell me that they are worried it will be complicated and will take a lot of time. We try to make the process as simple as possible and most people are surprised by how straightforward it all is. Cost is another factor – people worry about the expense and something more exciting or urgent always seems to come up to spend money on.
When is the best time to make a Will?
I tend to find that the main trigger for people making Wills is a death or illness in the family. This really isn’t the ideal time, as emotions are heightened and you will have lots of other things to arrange and think about. The best time to make your Will is before anything happens, when you have a clear head, plenty of time to think about what you wish to include. Ideally, a Will would be created before marriage, purchase of a property or other assets or starting a family. This way, you can ensure you plan for as many eventualities as possible and protect those you love, should the worst happen.
What is the Will making process?
Usually, making a Will is quite a simple procedure. You would meet with a solicitor who would take you through your circumstances, discussing any decisions you will have to make. You don’t need to have all the answers at this point – this is your chance to pick your solicitors brains and get their advice. After you have discussed everything, your solicitor will draft your Will and you‘ll have the opportunity to check through, add any more information and make amendments where required. Once happy, you’ll sign the Will and you and your solicitor will keep a copy.
We understand that throughout life things change, which is why we always encourage clients to regularly review their Wills. Often, a change in circumstances won’t require a Will amendment, but we encourage people to speak to us and check if unsure.
Can I support my favourite charity in my Will?
As well as looking after their friends and families, we have many clients who choose to leave a gift in their Will to a favourite charity. This is often a way for people to show their support of a charity in a way they were unable to during their lifetime. Legacy income accounted for £2.8 billion of donations in 2018, making it the largest single source of voluntary income to the charity sector and vital to the survival of many. Yet only 6 per cent of people leave a gift to charity in their Will.
I find that clients are attracted to legacy giving as a charity never really dies. It’s an effective way, where someone may not have a natural beneficiary, to ensure that an estate is passed on and will make a positive difference. Even if the charity has changed since the Will was made, or even ceased to exist, the executors can ensure that the estate is passed to a similar organisation. There are also financial benefits - leaving money to charity can be a way of reducing how much of your estate ends up with HMRC
Ok, I’m sold, how can I make or update my Will?
You can get a Will made at the bank, buy a “Will Pack” from the supermarket or download a form from the internet with which to make your own “DIY Will”. There are lots of Will Writing companies around too, so why do people use legal professionals?
Legal professionals have the necessary experience and skill to ensure that a watertight Will is written that truly carries out your wishes. Wills can sometimes be complex and a trained legal professional, in addition to putting your instructions down on paper, can also provide advice on things like inheritance tax, or discuss whether Trusts maybe required to protect vulnerable beneficiaries. Another important benefit of instructing a regulated professional is the guarantee of adherence to professional standards. This means that the firm you choose must have the right level of insurance to protect you in case something goes wrong.
Many people worry that using a solicitor may be expensive, but that’s where St Oswald’s Make a Will Month comes in! Simply book an appointment with one of the participating local solicitors from across the region who will help you to create a Will for a reduced rate (recommended donation of £90 for a single Will). The will then gift the entire fee you pay back to St Oswald’s, meaning that the charity benefits from you getting organised! Visit www.stoswaldsuk.org/wills to find our more and book your appointment now
Thank you to Sarah and Samuel Phillips Law for their support with Make a Will Month.